Big Lagoon Rancheria dealt another blow in gaming quest

The Big Lagoon Rancheria of California has been dealt numerous setbacks in its long-running quest for a casino.

The tribe initially wanted to build on its reservation. But the state objected because the land is located in an environmentally sensitive area.

So the state encouraged the tribe to pursue an off-reservation casino in partnership with the Los Coyotes Band of Cahuilla and Cupeno Indians. The Bush administration rejected the project in January 2008 under a controversial policy that the Obama administration has rescinded.

Rather than restart the lengthy process, Big Lagoon started looking at sites closer to home. Again, the state balked and, for the first time, questioned the legality of an 11-acre parcel that was placed in trust in 1994.

Ten years later, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the tribe can't use the site for gaming due to the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Carcieri v. Salazar. The ruling restricts the land-into-trust process to tribes that were "under federal jurisdiction" as of 1934.

The 9th Circuit, in a split decision issued on Tuesday, said Big Lagoon wasn't on a Bureau of Indian Affairs list at the time. So the tribe can't sue the state for refusing to negotiate a compact for the 11-acre site, the court determined.

The tribe hasn't spoken publicly about the latest setback.

Get the Story:
Appeals court ends casino plans: Ruling finds acres owned by Big Lagoon Rancheria not considered 'Indian lands' (The Eureka Times-Standard 1/23)

9th Circuit Decision:
Big Lagoon Rancheria v. California (January 21, 2014)

Related Stories
Bryan Newland: Big Lagoon decision bad for Indian Country (1/22)

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